5 (plus 1) Secret Weapons in the Kitchen Ninja Arsenal

There are a dizzying array of kitchen tools and gadgets available to the home cook. For people who don’t cook often because they aren’t sure of what to use, cooking can become a terrible chore.  I’m known as somewhat of a Ninja in the kitchen. Every Ninja’s has some tools in her arsenal.  Not having the right tools in the kitchen is like going against an army with a handgun… Ineffective.

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Here are the 5 kitchen tools or gadgets I use regularly.

1. Sharp Chef’s Knife (affiliate link) – A sharp knife is a safe knife, they say. My knife (similar to the one pictured below) has been with me for the past 11 years. The one piece molded construction (like the one pictured below) ensures that there are not rivets to get loose, and no wooden handle to swell. All that’s needed for peak performance is periodic sharpening on my sharpening stone (affiliate link).

knife

sharpening stone

2. Food Processor (affiliate link). I use my food processor just about everyday! With its different blades, It makes short work of chickpeas for falafel, perfectly shreds carrots for salad in seconds,  and chops up frozen okra for Nigerian Stew. I use this tool so much that it lives on my countertop. Another reason it’s my favorite? I got mine (brand new) from my local thrift store or $3, SCORE!!!

foodprocessor

3. Blender (affiliate link) Similar to the food process is my blender. I use my blender to crush ice for parties, make smoothies in the summer, grind up peppers, onions and tomatoes for Nigerian Stew amongst other things. Blenders are another dime-a-dozen thrift store item. In fact they are so ubiquitous that I keep have a spare glass cup portion in case I ever drop and break one.

blender

4. Electric Griddle (affiliate link) Another favorite workhorse is my Electric Griddle. Pancakes anyone?! I used to slave over a hot stove making one pancake at a time until I experienced using a Griddle. I could have  a stack of pancakes for the whole family within 15 minutes! I also use my griddle to ‘grill’ salmon (just olive oil, salt and pepper, yum!)

griddle

5. Hand Mixer (affiliate link) Of course! One day I will have that beautiful hot pink KitchenAid Stand Mixer. But until then, my super-awesome (thrift store find) hand mixer does justice to my batters: cookies, cakes and even marshmallows!

hand mixer

 

So there ya have it. My 5 secret weapons that can take you from Kitchen Ho-Hum to Kitchen Ninja in no time!

Let’s face it, there are a lot of tools and gadgets available to the home cook. It can be hard to cut out the noise and hone in on what is really important. These are the ones I turn to over and again. What tools do you have in your arsenal that you can’t live without. Please share below because I’d love to learn about others.

Bloom!

So it looks like spring may have finally sprung in the midwest, though I remain cautiously optimistic. As of monday (was it?) we had a dusting of snow on the ground. This was just days after we had almost 80 degree weather. Welcome to Ohio, where you can have all 4 seasons in 1 week!

That said, I am excited to be exhibiting at the annual Bloom, a handmade shopping party, hosted by one of my favorite people in the world, Julie Crusenberry of Steph’s Jewels.

bloom flyer 

This is a fun show for me as it gives me a chance to see my fellow handmade Dayton members that I don’t see often. There is food, drink, fun and lots of cool handmade items!

I have been up to my eyeballs in making stuff, both to prepare for the show, as well as to ramp up production for the shop side of AfroMartha.  I have been printing, printing, printing! I’ve been mostly doing test prints, trying out different color combos, sourcing material and all the fun parts of creating. I’ve also been honing my pillow-cover skills!

all

The theme (as you might notice) is C O L O R ! Lots and Lots of colors! I’ve been dyeing fabrics, testing out color combos and diffent patterns!

I’m also in love with shimmer, lots and lots of shimmer!

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And, oh look! Earrings, and necklaces, Oh my! Color, color everywhere! I blame it on spring fever!

baubles

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So now I have all this stuff!

I think it might be time for a

GIVEAWAY!

Check back on monday for details…

Happy Easter weekend!

Coloring Soap Naturally

I’ve been in a very colorful place lately, starting with my textile printing work, and now bleeding into soapmaking.

That has led me to further  refine my use of natural soap colorants. In the past I’ve often  just dumped the herb/spice in at the last minute, resulting in less than impressive results.

Take a look at these gorgeous soaps!

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These soaps were colored with herbs and or/spices. Leaving the ground herbs/spices in results in a grainy texture that I didn’t care for. Instead, I infused my liquid oils with the herbs to get the color then strained out the herbs using a coffee filter in a funnel. This resulted in a gorgeous vibrant color with no grains or streaks.

photo 1

The purplish (almost denim) soap was colored with Alkanet root. Strangely, alkanet root is a deep burgundy color, but turns  soap purple. I’m still on a hunt for a natural burgundy color.

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For one pound of soap, I used 1 teaspoon of alkanet root. The peachy colored soap was colored with Paprika. For one pound of soap I used 1 teaspoon of paprika.

photo 3

Next time I think I’ll bump up the concentration and see if the purple comes out any deeper. I made my soap in (soap dedicated) crock pot. Hence the rough appearance.

photo 1a

For soapmaking tutorials, look here.

On Being Kind to One’s Self…

kindtoyourself

“Be Kind to yourself,” said my Interior Design professor, regarding overcomplicating my first project of the semester. That saying stuck in my head like a whisper. It was there to remind me every time I would disappear into the rabbit-hole that is sometimes my mind.

“Be Kind to yourself” I would hear in the back of my mind, as I was racing out of the house to run yet another series of errands after having only 3 hours of restless sleep the night before.

Each and every time, I would bat that thought aside. ‘Ain’t nobody got for that!’ I would counter, thinking about all that I (thought) I had to do that day. I thought relaxation and self-care was just for women of leisure.

Why is it that we wear busy-ness as a badge of honor?

Why do we race from place to place, cramming way to much into our way-too-busy lives, yet feeling guilty for not doing more? Why do we feel guilty for taking time to rest and relax?

These are questions that I’ve been pondering in the last few weeks. This has come on the heels of me being diagnosed with Anemia and High Blood Pressure and being dehydrated.

Last week I made myself do something that terrifies me.  I actually went to see a doctor for a check-up. I’ve always been pretty healthy.  Up until about 8 years ago, I took my relative good health for granted. I looked forward to going to the doctor because I just knew there was no cause for alarm. But as I’ve gotten older, and actually developed the kind of scars that come from living life, I’ve gotten to be terrified of any kind of check up.

Why? Because finding something wrong means I now have to change my life. I must now tend to what is wrong. I will no longer be able to flit about, following my impulses. In short, life will no longer be normal.

Yes, I’m well aware that finding something early means a better chance of successful treatment. But nonetheless I was terrified of going to the doctor.

So I ignored the dip in energy levels…the climbing blood pressure readings…the persistent itchy rashes…the worrisome headaches…the muscle spasms in my neck…My husband telling me I don’t get enough rest, and that that I do too much unnecessary running around.

Then 3 weeks ago I got what I can only assume was the flu. And I was knocked flat on my ass.   I could do nothing but lay on the couch and feel like death. I binge watched my Hulu queue, listened to some audio books, coughed and sneezed. A lot.  Heck, I’m still coughing and sneezing…

Where was I racing to all the time? Apparently to a stroke or heart attack.

Why did I feel pressure to do so much all the time?

Why do I let guilt force me to try to be EVERTYTHING to EVERYONE, EVERYTIME?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out and correct.  So now I’m re-evaluating the path I’ve been on, trying to control what I can, and manage what I can’t.

What about you? Are you being Kind to Yourself?

A few of my thrifting finds

afewofmyfaves

When I’m not making stuff, I love to thrift. Thrifting is the ultimate intersection of my serendipity + bargain hunting. When I’ve got a hankering to find accessories that are just so, I hit the thrift. I’ve collected a few things in the last few years and thought I’d share them with you. You will notice a distinct boho/earthy vibe with these picks. Some are vintage, some are not.

Enjoy!

beaded belt

Beaded Belt for when I’m feeling boho-chic-like

rednecklace

Red wooden necklace for a bold statement…

beaded purse

Vintage beaded purse with lacquered wood detail: goes with anything

bronzeleatherbelt

Braided leather belt for a touch of the trendy

goldbeadedbelt

Vintage Brass beaded belt: for 70s disco queen vibe

purpleclutch

For a surpise pop of cool color: Patent Leather Clutch

hat

For channeling my inner Urban Cowgirl… (Even the picture it rests on is thrifted)

orange bag

My favorite go to for stylishly toting all my essentials: Orange straw bag with brown reed handles

I love seeing other people’s fabulous finds too, so please share!

Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar

Oh. My

This one’s for the grown ‘n’ sexy only, cuz  Oh. My.

I’m not usually one for over the top sweets. I don’t usually like my sugar with another side of sugar. The whole cake pop craze missed me.

But I must say, I fell hard for this concoction right here.

pinpic

pinpic

I came across the recipe on pinterest, which led me here, to the recipe. It is important to note that this is not my creation, but I’m reposting the recipe for my FB friends who have asked for it.

What I love the most is that despite it’s richness, it’s is not overly sweet. It doesn’t have that sugar ‘bite’ that I despise in sweets. The flavor is more complex and layered, instead of just ‘sweet’, probably owing to the cream cheese.

I added Macadamia nuts because, to me a chocolate chip cookie is not complete without nuts. And I love Macadamia nuts. A lot. Even though they’re crazy expensive. And fattening.

So here’s the recipe:[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:1]

Making it work: How to have 4 (or 5)rooms in 1

This is not a post about styling your space.

Like most homes (or is it just mine?) there never seems to be quite enough room. In my perfect world, the kids would have their own dedicated hangout area, I’d have my very own craft room/home office/command central. There would be an epic guest room rivaling the best bed and breakfast money can buy. I’d have a palatial laundry room/mud room (ok, ok, maybe not that excessive…)

Alas, fantasy, meet reality.

fantasyreality

My family room is a work in progress, just like most homes.  It could be just a little more styled and decorated. There are a multitude of design flaws, but I’m thankful to have the skills to make it all work. I’m happy, my family is happy, and that’s the most important design element.

Well, back to reality. This particular room has to function as at least 4 rooms, because all the other rooms are taken up. Here’s how I’ve combined everything into this room to make it work for us.

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My family room is fairly large, measuring about 20ft wide by 12 feet deep. As such is functions as:

1. Children’s play and toy storage area.

Anyone who has kids knows how their stuff just reproduces overnight! Since there’s no TV allowed in their  bedrooms, they (along with their things)  tend to congregate in the family room.

photo 3 (4)

(complete with ikea lawn furniture that the kids fell in love with and each had to have one, yeeah baby!) The middle-ish area is the designated hangout spot, while my stuff and everything else is just kind of pushed to the outskirts of the room.

photo 3

2. Guest Room for the occasional overnight guest.

daybed

With just an old box spring and mattress set, wooden base, and some pillows, I have fashioned a daybed that functions as additional seating, and a guest bed when needed. This current daybed is not the final design. Once I’ve completed the project I will post instructions.

3. Crafting space

Of course

middle_left2

My art/craft/design supplies live in (for the most part) concealed storage all around the room. The bookshelf behind the french doors hold gadgets for sewing and knitting. The slim bookcases that flank my work desk hold other bits and bobs. The lower part of our built-in bookshelf holds more suppplies. My ultimate goal is to have everything contained in bins and drawers to reduce visual clutter.

photo 4 (2)

4. Home Office

work area

I work from home at night, and my job comes with a lot of wires as you can see above.

BONUS!

5. Mudroom

Oh yes. This room leads directly to our back yard where we enter and depart the home. A corner of it is also dedicated to being a ‘mudroom.’  Here live school backpacks, winter gear and other things related to entering and departing the home.

mudroom

With some clever storage and arranging, you can turn 1 room into 4 (or 5).

I’d love to see how you all are making it work with the imperfections in your homes.

DIY Printing Stamp with Craft Foam Shapes

In honor of Valentine’s Day I’ve whipped up a quick little printing project using craft foam shapes.  These are perfect for making your own printing stamps that you can use to stamp paper, fabric or anything else you can think of!

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The craft foam shapes are great because most of the cutting work is done for you. They also come with adhesive already on the back, making your stamps ready to attach to your stamping block. You can use the shapes as is, arranging them into your own design:

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Or further customize the stamps by cutting some intricate shapes into the stamps for a more organic look.

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Once your shapes are cut to your liking and arrange them in your desired pattern.  Peel of the adhesive backing and stick to on a piece of glass, acrylic block or wood block, and Voila! You’ve got a custom stamp. You can use this stamp with an inkpad on paper, or with fabric paint on fabric.

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Now print with abandon on your paper, fabric or other substrate. So, raid your kids craft stash and go forth and make something pretty!

This week’s mojo–Nigerian High Society & Style

Here is what I’m digging this week:

Nigerian high society fashion…

I dare you not to be inspired by all these beautiful hues!

nigerian couture

photo courtesy of Laidi’s blog

Sequin Gele _ Dainty Affairs

photo courtesy of aisleperfect

Edo/Benin Brides: The beading on these brides is simply stunning!

edo1

ndukwu

courtesy of BellaNaija

And OMG! These ‘Queen of Africa’ Dolls.  The love of is not limited to the humans.

nigerian dolls

photo courtesy of Naij

Barbie and Ken who?

nigeria_barbies_2

photo courtesy of Naij

nigeria_barbies_3

photo courtesy of Naij

If you know nothing else of Nigerian high society, know this: It will be colorful, it will be rich, and it will always be dressed to impress.